Friday, November 25, 2011

Negatively mad

What makes a photograph? I mean – what makes you stay, not look away. Is it the colors, the technique, the subject, the lighting, the unexpected factor? I am asking myself this because I’m contemplating a new photo project. In this project, I take photos of mundane objects in the house and try to make them poetic. A rudimentary keyboard, for instance, with the black trapeze keys rising in perfect order like soldiers, each one holding up a coded flag, all backlit in a discotheque of neon colors. Something like this - only in images. Fernando once told me a story about a class he taught, where the students, with their cameras, were locked in a classroom for several hours and were asked to produce their final class project right then and there, having as subjects only the items in the classroom. They came up with the most brilliant things. The lesson is that limits challenge us and stimulate creativity, leading us to talents we didn’t even know we had. It’s definitely a hypothesis to which I am partial.

But really, I am not trying to be one of those would-be artists, you know the kind, who explain their would-be art and prompt for oohing and aahing from the audience. If I am a good artist, I should at least hope that I wouldn’t have to explain my art. How am I different from a poet, who formulates the lyrical with words and vernacular fireworks? I strive for the same, but use another medium. So then, if the poet’s verbal imagery limps, not lending itself easily to be conjured in one’s imagination, then the poet probably stinks. And in the same way, if my photography makes little sense without my profuse attempts at explanations (where I use tangled abstract words and run-on sentences to mystify the audience, who will nevertheless nod spastically as if they grasp everything so thoroughly), then, well, I must stink as a photographer too. Yes, it really is that black and white.

I have yet again spent the entire day indoors. Such days, when I am cloistered in my tower, are more numerous in my life now. Here’s how the idea for this new project was born, sitting at this table quite simply and boredly, eating a carob-chip cookie that I made myself. I spend so much time looking at these objects every day, and in my dejection they are even more trivial than their mundane design and purpose have already cursed them to be. They are beyond dull and nondescript, they are irritating and exasperating, and they are angering me. I could just stand up right now, get closer to this haughty chair and smack him one with a hammer, just to show him! Serves you right, chair. Or! – tomorrow, when I wake up, I could arrange the blinds just so, make a studio out of the sunrise light and find some inspiration to take a portrait of this chair, as if it is smiling. You see? It really is a challenge. But wait, don’t call the funny farm on me just yet.

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